When “The Russians” demand that your best friend pays his £8000 strip club tab, the logical next step is to take said idiotic best friend to rob a petrol station, right?
That’s how this crazy crime caper begins, and continues, until it’s wrapped up so nicely you’d think Billy Shakespeare wrote it himself. Upon realizing the safe in the petrol station is on time-lock and won’t open until 6am, our ‘heroes’ pose as cashiers whilst the other staff are tied up in the office. Then the assistant manager returns from her ciggy break and mistakes them for new trainees, welcoming the two would-be robbers into the world of the convenience store whilst they attempt to hold their cover until 6am. It’s rife for comedy pickings, and they’re picked with intelligence and style.
One of the things that makes Convenience such a gem is the theatrical script and style; there’s almost only one location (the shop) and a handful of characters who move in and out of the shopfront (read: spotlight), before being gagged and shoved in the manager’s office (read:backstage).
It’s got a cast full of people you’ll recognize, not necessarily as standout actors but who all know how to pull off a good punchline or a convincing look. Utopia’s Adeel Akhtar definitely doe stand out as the loveable goofball best friend with an irrational fear of babies, and Eastender’s Ray Panthaki does a great job of the smarter but more weary ‘older brother’ figure. As a duo they’re brilliant to watch; imagine George and Lennie in a Guy Ritchie film. It’s also nice to see Vicky McClure using the comedic talent which she showed in This Is England, in contrast to many of her current more humorless roles.
For his directorial debut, Keri Collins hasn’t done too badly either. The direction is mostly simplistic, letting the actors and the script do their work while the camera captures it from the best position, although a few shots involving Verne Troyer and his Mustang are especially gorgeous, and the shop interior is always captured in a slightly Orwellian composition and tone. Whatever he did he did well, and the film won Collins the 2014 BAFTA Cymru Breakthrough Award.
Simon Fantauzzo’s script is what really makes Convenience so enjoyable. A relatively unknown screenwriter, with only a Danny Dyer film under his belt before this, Fantauzzo’s script feels like a mix of Pinter, Shakespeare and the guys who wrote The Inbetweeners (Damon Beesley and Iain Morris). The nicely tied up ending feels like the conclusion of Twelfth Night. Perhaps the title Convenience says more about the plot than the setting, although it never feels forced within the already outlandish crime caper genre. The buddy humour is funny and consistently so, but the real humour comes from the subtle truths and darker moments that get close to the bone: questioning each other about their disguises as store assistants, they point out that no one’s going to question two Asians working behind a till. Also there’s a delicious moment in which the baby fearing of the two has to help a dwarf reach the top shelf, and a bewildering yet touching scene where the same goofball stops a man from burning himself alive on the forecourt.
Convenience is one of those rare comedies which tackles human psychology extremely well. Sure, you won’t have any huge philosophical revelations, but the characters’ motives and actions are for the most part understandable and dig a layer deeper than the average comedy. The unfolding dynamic between the three manipulative lead characters is mentally engaging and entertaining (a combination which isn’t always achieved), and by the manic yet brilliant end of the film you’ll be wholeheartedly rooting for the unlikely pair. Rather conveniently it’s on Netflix at the moment, and it’s one of the best films you’ve never heard of before so give it a go before it flies off the shelf.